This country was built on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With liberty squeezed between the other two building blocks, it can feel like it’s a forgotten thing sometimes. However, when it comes to access to your personal information, the government has gotten this one right. Through the FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act, you have the ability to access your IRS records at your request. But how exactly does it work, and what’s the value in doing so? Let’s take a look.
Who Can File a FOIA Request?
The beauty of the FOIA Act is that any taxpayer can fill out a freedom of information request form and obtain their personal IRS files. According to FOIA.gov, “The general rule is that any person – citizen or not – can make a FOIA request.” There are no specific forms or requirements, other than the request must be in writing and clearly explain the information sought. In writing means by mail, email, or fax. The IRS will require proof of identification to proceed.
What is an FOIA Request?
In general terms, an FOIA request can be made for a variety of different information held by the government. This includes criminal records, status complaints filed with the DHS Office, Alien Files, and tax returns. FIOA requests only apply to federal agencies and do not allow access to records held by state and local governments.
When Can You File an FOIA Request?
You can request IRS information under the FOIA at any time. While it may take some time to hear back or gain access to your records, nothing prohibits you from requesting information. As soon as you feel like there may be an issue with your taxes, it’s a good idea to fill out a freedom of information request form.
Where Can You File an FOIA Request?
Thanks to the 1996 amendment to the FOIA, it’s easier than ever to file a FOIA request form and access IRS tax information. This amendment requires federal agencies to make records available online and expedites the process of obtaining information. Your freedom of information request form must be written, which includes email, fax, and standard mail. When filing, you will want to identify the IRS office that will have the records you are looking for and direct your request there.
Why File a FOIA Request?
FOIA requests are filed for a number of different reasons. Taxpayers usually look for tax return information or examination files. This allows you to examine your files without signaling to the IRS that you are looking into anything.
FAQs Regarding IRS Freedom of Information Requests
Here are answers to popular questions regarding the FOIA:
Who oversees the FOIA and who handles requests?
The executive branch of government is responsible for the administration of the FOIA. The DOJ of Information Policy oversees compliance. No single office handles FOIA requests; rather, each federal agency processes its own records.
How are FOIA requests actually processed?
Because there is no central office for FOIA requests, the process can vary. Once an agency receives your request, they should send you a letter acknowledging receipt. They will also include a tracking number and request official identification documents.
How long does the process take?
The FOIA establishes the standard time limit at approximately one month. However, this response time will vary depending on the complexities and requirements of the request.
How much do FOIA requests cost?
There are typically no fees for FOIA requests, but some instances do call for small payments. The first two hours of a search – or first 100 pages of duplication – are free of charge. However, if the processing is estimated to exceed $25, fees may be required.
Sample FOIA Request Letters
The National Freedom of Information Coalition has done a fantastic job of providing sample FOIA request letters for the general public to view. These letters are organized by type and state.
The Value in IRS FOIA Request Letters
While many individuals never have the need to file a FOIA request letter, it’s an extremely valuable tool for those that do. It enables you to find the information you are looking for without raising red flags of suspicion. To make the most out of your request letter, be sure to follow the rules and guidelines laid out by all involved parties.
America was founded on freedom, so make sure you seize every opportunity afforded to you. Whether you believe you may be in trouble or are simply curious, the FOIA enables you to access your records and have peace of mind.